Little Almscliffe, Stainburn, North Yorkshire

Cup-and-Ring Stone:  OS Grid Reference – SE 23242 52260

Also Known as:

  1. Little Almes Cliffe
  2. Little Almias Cliff Crag

Archaeology & History

Little Almscliffe Crag (photo by James Elkington)

The crags of Little Almscliffe are today peppered with many modern carvings, such as are found on many of our northern rock outcrops.  Yet upon its vertical eastern face is a much more ancient petroglyph – and one that seems to have been rediscovered in the middle of the 20th century.  When the great northern antiquarian William Grainge (1871) visited and wrote of this place, he told us that, “the top of the main rock bears…rock basins and channels, which point it out as having been a cairn or fire-station in the Druidic days; there are also two pyramidal rocks with indented and fluted summits on the western side of the large rock” – but he said nothing of any prehistoric carvings. Curiously , neither the great historian Harry Speight or Edmund Bogg saw anything here either.

Stuart Feather & Joe Davies here, c.1955
Cup&Ring, left of ‘door’ (photo by James Elkington)

This singular cup-and-ring design seems to have been reported first in E.S. Wood’s (1952) lengthy essay on the prehistory of Nidderdale. It was visited subsequently by the lads from Bradford’s Cartwight Hall Archaeology Group a few years later; and in the old photo here (right) you can see our northern petroglyph explorer Stuart Feather (with the pipe) and Joe Davis looking at the design.  In more recent times, Boughey & Vickerman (2003) added it in their survey of, telling briefly as usual:

“On sheltered E face of main crag above a cut-out hollow like a doorway is a cup with a ring; the top surface of the rock is very weathered and may have had carvings, including a cupless ring.”

Close up of design

Indeed… although the carving is to the left-side of the large hollow and not above it.  Scattered across the topmost sections of the Little Almscliffe themselves are a number of weather-worn cups and bowls, some of which may have authentic Bronze age pedigree, but the erosion has taken its toll on them and it’s difficult to say with any certainty these days.  But it’s important to remember that even Nature’s ‘bowls’ on rocks was deemed to have importance in traditional cultures: the most common motif being that rain-water gathered in them possessed curative properties.

References:

  1. Bennett, Paul, The Old Stones of Elmet, Capall Bann: Milverton 2001.
  2. Bogg, Edmund, From Eden Vale to the Plains of York, James Miles: Leeds 1895.
  3. Bogg, Edmund, Higher Wharfeland, James Miles: Leeds 1904
  4. Cowling, E.T., Rombald’s Way, William Walker: Otley 1946.
  5. Grainge, William, History & Topography of Harrogate and the Forest of Knaresborough, J.R. Smith: London 1871.
  6. Parkinson, Thomas, Lays and Leaves of the Forest, Kent & Co.: London 1882.

Acknowledgements:  Huge thanks to James Elkington for use of his fine photos on this site.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

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